Fjala e Drejtorit të Përgjithshëm në takimin e 16-të të Drejtuesve të Sistemit Penitenciar, Strasburg

The Latest Developments in the Albanian Penitentiary System

An overview by Mr. Gazment Dibra, Director General
October 06th, 2011

Reform of the Penitentiary System is one of the 12 key priorities that Albania needs to address in order to be considered for European Union membership. In the process of this work and considering the developments in the Albanian penitentiary system during the past few years, we deeply recognize the role of the European Commission in the transformation and the perception of the penal institutions, as places for the re-integration of prisoners in the society. We would put here emphasis on the continuous improvement of the legislation, as well as the ongoing improvement of infrastructure and accommodation premises, as well as staff qualification.

General Directorate of Prisons is managing 19 penitentiary institutions around the country, as well as 1 Prison Hospital and 1 Institute for Juveniles in Kavaja. As to the statistical data of October 6th 2011, the number of persons held in the penitentiary institutions is 4764, of which 125 minors, 87 females and 4552 males. The official capacity of prison system is 4417. The vision of our service is to establish appropriate conditions for the strict implementation of all the obligations which are outcomes of the existing legal framework, transforming in this way the penal sentences into a possibility of re–education based in the European Union standards. Our main areas of intervention include:
    Accommodation of convicts and detainees in appropriate safety and lodging conditions
    Human treatment of convicts and detainees
    Professional growth of personnel
Based on the Master Plan for the Albanian Prison System, concrete steps have been undertaken for the functioning of new prisons like the ones in Fushë-Krujë and Korçë, the pre-trial detention centers in Durrës and Vlorë and Kavajas’ Juvenile Institution. Meanwhile, we are working on opening three new prisons in Elbasan, Berat and Fieri, as projected through IPA 2009 assistance. The opening of the new institutions decreased significantly the overpopulation, one of the main problems of the penitentiary system. According to the statistical data of 2008, the penitentiary institutions had approximately 900 persons in overload. As to the October 2011 statistics, the overpopulation is about 347 persons.  Another important factor for the alleviation of this problem has been the approval of amendments to the Penal Code and Law "On execution of penal decisions" aiming the establishment of the probation service.  From January 2011-September 2011, 123 persons deprived of their liberty have benefited from this service.

The opening of new penitentiary institutions was followed by an increase in staff number. In addition to the recruitment policies, the Prisons' Training Centre was set up in order to increase the professional level of the staff in DGP. During the last years, this centre undertook thorough reforms on the improvement of the training service. A teaching curriculum based on the best experiences of EUMS was compiled and is being implemented. This curriculum consists of 240 hours, distributed in 45 days of academic learning and 3 months of practice.    

A considerable work has been done for the continuous improvement of legal acts, whose implementation provides a human treatment of convicts and detainees, emphasizing here the re-education of the convicts in these institutions and expansion of the concept for non discrimination of the convicts and detainees. The amended law “On the rights and treatment of those sentenced to imprisonment and in pre-trial detention” came into power in April 2008, the Prison Police Law entered into force in December 2008, and the “General regulation of Prisons” was adopted in March 2009. During 2010, by the Order of the Minister of Justice, 21 internal regulations for the penal institutions were approved.

The approval of the General Regulation of Prisons on March 2009 defined the employment relations between convicts and the penitentiary institutions. The Commission for the Appraisal of the Detainees and Convicts' Work composed of representatives of the Directorate General of Prisons and Ministry of Justice has prepared the employment organigrammes for 606 detainees, which are in process of approval by the Ministry of Justice. The organigramme gives a detailed description of the posts for employment of convicts and detainees. Furthermore, a draft budget was outlined foreseeing the inclusion of convicts in the social insurance scheme for year 2011.

Special Care Sections for people with mental disorder and dependency on narcotic substances was first applied in April 2010 as a pilot project initiated in Fushë-Krujë, Ali Demi, Lezhë, Peqin, Vlorë and Durrës. The programme of those sections includes mainly psycho-social service and intensive therapy, aiming the rehabilitation of convicts with mental disorders and of those with dependence to narcotic substances. The 73 prisoners placed in these sections do not have contact with the other convicts until they are deemed rehabilitated and may join the other category of the group.

Women are considered to be one of the most vulnerable categories in prisons. Therefore it is necessary to compile special programmes, in order to facilitate their stay in the penal institutions and at the same time to reduce the negative consequences that follow the imprisonment and stress. For that reason, during year 2011 various thematic and informative training for women convicts took place, aiming at the understanding of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. A total of 60 female convicts attended the training. A nursery is established inside the internal regime, for female convicts – mothers of newborns, aiming to provide a harmless environment for children to grow up with their mothers. Children have assistance of social and health care personnel on a 24hour service and may stay with their mothers in prison up to the age of three years old.

Young offenders (18-21 years of age) are another group of specific needs. Their treatment aims the implementation of rehabilitation programs for reintegration into society and avoiding recidivism. With the support of some international organization such as Save the Children and UNICEF, is under implementation the second phase of the project “Supporting Minors of Kavajas’ Juvenile Institute”. This project intends providing services for ongoing enhancement of professional training activities for juveniles, training of staff on conflict resolutions and supporting this institution to strengthen its capacity in networking, so to ensure the reintegration of minors. Among other activities intended to be implemented are providing social services, health and housing after release, as well as employment opportunities.

During school year 2010 – 2011, 113 detainees in 4 institutions (Peqin, Korçë, Vaqarr, Fushë-Krujë), completed their 9 years education. First school was opened in Peqin in 2009, upon signature of Memorandum of Cooperation between Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education. During year 2010 the 9 year education system was applied in the Institution for Juveniles in Kavaja, where 23 minors have started and attended the educational process.

Great importance has been given to the training of convicts and detainees in various vocational areas, such as cooking, sewing, gardening, foreign languages, computer studies, hairdresser etc. Initially these training started as a pilot project in 2008 in Vlora and Fushë-Kruja with the support of the Spanish Agency for Development, which was then extended to other 11 institutions. In 2011, 445 convicts and detainees benefited from the abovementioned training and were provided with a certificate recognised by Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Chances.

The health care personnel in prisons, was reorganized during 2009 along with the provision of health care. The structure of a penitentiary institution consists of a doctor, a dentist, a pharmacist and it is a 24 hour service. Convicts and detainees are subject to health check-ups at the moment of arrival in the institution. They are provided with a medical and dentistry file, which specifies the treatment to be followed and specialized medical assistance offered in the penitentiary institution.  

Public relation is seen as an important asset for the prisons’ service progress. On this regard, 12 collaboration agreements have been signed with various NGO-s, with particular interest in detentions centers monitoring, staff training and organization of educational, social and cultural activities. The Directorate General of Prisons in cooperation with “Stop Aids” association and the funding by Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, as well as the National Programme for HIV/AIDS have successfully implemented the first and second phase of the project “Prevention of HIV/AIDS” in the penitentiary system. Direct beneficiaries from the project were 64 members of the health care and police staff of the IEPS in Vlora, Jordan Misja, Vaqarr, Ali Demi, Peqin, Durrës, Hospital of Prisons, Lezhë, Mine Peza, Rrogozhinë and Institute for Juveniles in Kavaja. Sessions of information and awareness raising were organized in 11 institutions, where 1680 convicts attended. Through distribution of brochures, direct conversation and personal stories of infected persons, prisoners became responsive to the suggestion of having a voluntary test on HIV, in complete confidentiality. At the end of the information session, 36 detainees were selected to become "Peer Educator" to inform their other inmates on the contagious diseases.

A recent development in the health care service is the decision of the Council of Ministers nr. 337, dated 06/04/2011 “For the involvement of the detainees and pre-trial detainees in the category of persons economically non-active”. As to this decision, they benefit all benefits, offered by the health insurance scheme, free of charge.

Even though there have been improvements, still problems exist. That’s why we are determined to create the appropriate conditions for the implementation of all the obligations coming from the existing legal framework, providing that all law execution authorities secure a human treatment of the detainees and convicts and transformation of the penitentiary system as to European standards and recommendations.

Gazment Dibra

Director General

Ministry of Justice
General Directorate of Prisons
Rr. Abdi Toptani, prane Torre Drin
Tirana, Albania
Tel: 00 355 42 27 14 37  
Fax: 00 355 42 22 82 92